Wrenn Yano has dreamed of being a First Nations Role Model since she was in Grade 3.
Now a Grade 12 Student at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary, Yano holds the title she has long coveted and is proud to be representing not only her school but also the entire South Cariboo.
“(It’s) just being able to connect to your culture the best that you can and being able to help other people do the same. Trying to set a good example for other people and help them out, make sure they feel welcome and safe where they are,” said Yano, who lives in Lac La Hache and is a member of the Spuzzum First Nation. “I’ve always tried to be the best that I could, I’ve always worked hard in school, I’ve done extracurricular activities and I just thought this was a good way to represent myself and my culture.”
Yano, a member of the school’s Social Justice Club and Drama Club, was excited when she found out earlier this year she would be SD27’s First Nation Role Models, alongside Morgan McKay, of Lake City Secondary School in Williams Lake. However, the role has taken a different twist in 2020 due to COVID-19, she said.
The role models usually attend various events and powwows, but were unable to do so this year due to the pandemic. Instead, Yano has been working with Foundry BC as a member of the Youth Advisory Committee for the Cariboo Chilcotin. Foundry BC aims to create a province-wide system of integrated health and social services for young people aged 12-24 and Yano’s role will help shape what mental health services come to the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
With so many people stuck inside and unable to access their social support network outside of their homes, Yano said it’s really important to support mental health initiatives this year.
“It’s located in Williams Lake but it’s for services everywhere around here. They’re also working a lot with First Nations communities around there to ensure that it’s culturally inclusive,” Yano said.
After graduation, Yano plans to travel across Canada and get to know the rest of her country before attending the University of British Columbia to study history. She advises future prospective role models to work hard and be sure to give themselves enough grace to think about what they want to do during and after school. Branching out into different extra-curricular activities while being kind and nice to the people around you is key, she said.
“I’m really excited that I can help other indigenous students see what they can do. Seeing that they can come from this school and become the First Nation Role Model, it’s not just a Williams Lake thing,” Yano said. “I think it’s important to have the entire Cariboo Chilcotin represented.”